This most recent lockout was a reminder that the NBA is a business. Front offices try to do what’s best for the team regardless of loyalty because it maximizes the profits of the owners. Players in turn frequently do what’s best for themselves individually because that will earn them the highest salary they can obtain. While some players love playing the game and some owners have a soft heart for the people they employ, those are secondary motives. Greed is the prime motivator in sports.
So while the story regarding Chris Paul making a wedding day toast to play with his buddies Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire was heart warming, I have no choice but to take that with a grain of salt. Recently Paul’s agent announced that the point guard does wish to be traded to New York, which was met with some criticism because the Knicks don’t have the best assets to acquire Paul to be their third star. And as I, among others, have outlined Paul will lose a significant amount of money should he come to the Big Apple as a free agent.
Of course New Orleans knows this, and will at the least use this in negotiations or at best force him to make good on that promise. So at that point Chris Paul may have to chose between tens of millions of dollars or come to the team of his desire. As I said earlier, money is the first motivator in sports. It’s hard to see the All Star guard making the decision to come to New York knowingly earning less than his two friends, especially considering his injury history and the limited window he has to earn a maximum contract in the NBA. Would you leave your job to join one with two of your friends at a lower paycheck? If you’ve answered yes, try to explain that to your spouse (or anyone that relies on you to bring home the bacon).
If the New Orleans front office knows this, then so do the Knicks. If the league owned Hornets decide to send their star player elsewhere and Paul chooses a boatload of money over friendship, then the Knicks are left with Plan B. Yet again. With just Amar’e and ‘Melo New York is mostly a middle tier team. Good enough for a second round in the playoffs, but without a fantastic supporting roster they aren’t as good as the league’s elites. So perhaps the Knicks shouldn’t wait to see if they can acquire Paul and find another Plan A.
The Orlando Magic will likely field offers for Dwight Howard, much like the one that the Nets reportedly sent their way of Lopez and a pair of firsts. As enticing an offer that is, I can’t help but think that if the Knicks decided to give up on one of their two stars they could have a decent chance at landing Howard. As much as a ton of cap space and two firsts can potentially get a team, there’s no allure like landing a bona fide All Star. Knick fans know this well, considering the revival this town went through when Stoudemire arrived. Looking through possible offers, there is only one other that I’ve seen mentioned that could match or top New York’s in terms of star power. Hollinger theorized that the Lakers could send Gasol and Bynum to Orlando, which would be a similar offer. (He also playfully thought a LeBron for Howard trade would be beneficial to both teams.)
The dilemma New York faces is that an offer for Howard could harm their ability to acquire Chris Paul. It’s unclear whether this move would make it more or less palatable for Paul to come to New York. But one thing that is clear is that a Howard pairing with ‘Melo or Amar’e would be an upgrade over the current roster. Either Knick would be the best player that Dwight has ever played alongside, and he’s kept the Magic in the 50+ win column for 4 seasons now. A meager supporting cast would make New York a .600 team as well, but with a few good players (*cough* Steve Nash *cough*) they would easily be among the league’s 5 or so best teams.
From that perspective it seems that the Knicks would be foolish to not make a major play for Howard. If they fail to impress the Orlando front office, they’ll be in the same situation they are now. And if their bid succeeds they’ll have one of the best teams in the NBA. What’s not to like?